Remembering the forgotten solutions

Forest with sunlight streaming through
Shutterstock Valentin Agapov

This article is drawn from the VERGE Weekly newsletter from GreenBiz, running Wednesdays.

I must admit: When Jane Goodall, one of my childhood heroines, was touting solar, wind and electric vehicles as some of the most compelling clean technologies of the future from the Global Climate Action Summit last week, I got excited. As someone who spends most of my days focused on how to accelerate the markets that undergird a clean economy, it was affirming to hear her reinforce my — and our collective — efforts.

That’s why my heart skipped a beat when she declared, "But they’re not enough. We must do better."

What Goodall was referencing, of course, is the importance of nature-based solutions — activities such as protecting and restoring forests, producing food more sustainably and improving land use. In the next 10 to 15 years, natural climate solutions can provide more than one-third of the emissions reductions needed to keep the Earth’s temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. And when it comes to the scale and scope of action needed, advancing solutions that are affordable, scalable and available right now — and capable of addressing more than a third of the problem — well, they deserve serious attention.

That’s why it struck me how little attention they’ve gotten in the larger scheme of things. Specifically, according to the Nature4Climate Initiative, nature-based solutions get less than 3 percent of funding and represent less than 1 percent of the conversation in mainstream media. I came away with a reinvigorated appreciation of how critical it is that we shift from a "this-or-that" to a "both-and" approach when it comes to embracing the roles of technology and nature to address climate change.

The good news is that it’s happening — and new, replicable, scalable models are emerging to bolster both natural systems and your company’s bottom line, all while these new technologies are creating even more jobs than they supplant.

In addition to the litany of announcements made last week around ambitious clean energy and technology adoption goals, big companies, institutional investors, national and subnational governments alike are stepping up their game around responsible, regenerative stewardship of the ecosystems upon which their businesses fundamentally depend.

Take, for example, Walmart and Unilever’s commitment to the Sabah Restoration Project, which aims to sustainably certify more than 148,000 acres of forest in Malaysia. At the heart of the effort is what’s called a "jurisdictional approach" to address deforestation across supply chains. In other words, companies that source deforestation-related agricultural commodities are starting to collaborate directly with local governments, communities and producers in their sourcing regions — ultimately ensuring that local laws, regional efforts and corporate policies work in concert to reduce deforestation across entire landscapes.

National and sub-national governments are taking increased and collaborative action, too.

In a seemingly unlikely partnership with Norway and Germany, Ecuador announced a $50 million initiative to conserve 33 million acres of rainforest in the Amazon. And, through the Pacific Coast Collaborative, cities and states on the United States’ West Coast committed to reduce food waste 50 percent by 2030 — representing 25 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions reduction potential per year from the often-overlooked but critical food sector.

It’s possible to do both at the same time, too — that is, advance markets for clean technologies while also regenerating natural systems.

I think of our friend Rob Davis at Fresh Energy, and his work driving the transition to a clean energy economy in Minnesota while also creating pathways for pollinators, sequestering carbon and building topsoil. His entertaining and inspiring talk at one of our past VERGE Hawaii conferences demonstrates how PV can provide rays of hope for the bees

Speaking of VERGE and remembering the important stuff: Our Early-Bird Rate for VERGE 18 expires after today. If you haven’t yet registered to join us in Oakland — where we’ll be exploring the opportunities of both technology- and nature-based solutions — now is the time.